What They Are Saying: Experts Disagree With DOJ’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google, Defend Consumer Choice and Innovation
As the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Google began trial this week, experts have been quick to criticize the government’s case, which rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of how Americans use the internet and jeopardizes the innovative search results that help consumers and businesses every day.
Here’s what these experts are saying:
The DOJ’s case is designed to help competitors and not consumers or innovation—contradicting established antitrust law.
Ironically, the government’s flawed case targets conduct that consumers love.
—Jim Cramer noted on CNBC that the DOJ “is picking on the things we love” and thinks Google “is the best search engine in the world.” “It’s so funny, because it’s like the Amazon fight at the FTC. They’re picking on the things that we love. One of the things, when many people are saying that what we’re seeing right now in AI is bigger than search, and therefore, even more valuable than search. Everyone I spoke to is so happy with something that was developed by Google, which is the best search engine in the world.”
—Stephen Moore of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity compares Google’s success to “the Boston Celtics w[inning] 11 titles with Bill Russell.” “There are scores of search engines from Bing to Apple’s Safari to Mozilla. Why does Google dominate? The same reason the Boston Celtics won 11 titles with Bill Russell. They have a superior product. Period.”
—Barbara Comstock, an attorney and former U.S. representative for Virginia’s 10th congressional district, said that Americans’ preference for Google search “does not transform this incredibly successful product into an antitrust violation.” “Ultimately, the DOJ lawsuit rests on the paternalistic theory that Google’s search dominance must be bad even though consumers overwhelmingly prefer and self-select for its product. Successfully obtaining market share by offering a superior product is not an antitrust violation.”
—Jennifer Huddleston of the Cato Institute noted that “a successful case against Google may help its competitors but harm consumers.” “The real question should not be if Google has been more successful than the alternatives, but whether it achieved this success through a superior product or anticompetitive means. Consumers choose Google largely because they consider it a better product, not because they have been manipulated into choosing it as their option for search.”
—She added, “After all, one of the most popular search queries on Bing is consumers looking for Google, illustrating that it is not by force but through consumer choice that has led to its popularity.”
—Carl Szabo of NetChoice noted the “absurd tragedy” of overregulation in the space. “If the DOJ wins in this case against Google, the absurd tragedy of this ideology on American consumers will expand: we will pay more, get lower quality services and have less choice and power in the marketplace.”
—He further notes: “Microsoft is one of the biggest advocates for this case as it wants its Bing search engine to replace Google on devices.”
The government’s case against Google is nothing like the 90s-era case of U.S. v. Microsoft, in which the DOJ alleged that Microsoft improperly bundled its web browser, Internet Explorer, with its dominant Windows operating system in order to keep rivals, like Netscape, with superior products out of the market.
In the Microsoft case, the government accused Microsoft of unlawfully restricting internet providers’ ability to promote alternative browsers. Here, by contrast, Google’s position as the default search engine doesn’t substantially hinder consumer choice, as most consumers willingly opt for Google even when they have other options. Case in point: “Google” is the most frequently searched term on Microsoft’s Bing search engine globally.
—Matt Schruers, President of CCIA, was quoted in the Washington Post noting “this case is the architectural opposite of Microsoft.” “‘This case is the architectural opposite of Microsoft,’ Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said in a statement. ‘In Microsoft, like IBM and AT&T, the question involved Microsoft limiting other companies’ access to its ecosystem. Here the government principally takes issue with Google negotiating prominent placement in other companies’ ecosystems.'”
—Thom Lambert, Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, broke down the differences between the two cases: “Search default status does not involve the same sort of foreclosure as in Microsoft. Whereas it was hard for rival browsers to get their products to customers without access to OEMs and IAPs, search defaults are simple to change. That’s probably why Microsoft, the owner of Google’s chief rival (Bing), won’t outbid Google for default status.”
—Lambert continued, “Microsoft is much bigger than Google and could afford to do so. But it knows users would probably just switch the default to Google, because it’s better.“
—Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich pointed out that the Microsoft case was “eons ago in terms of technology,” and that “it’s much easier to switch to a competing search engine today.” “I don’t think this case has that much to do with where things go in the future, particularly because if you look at the last year, arguably the most significant thing that’s happened in terms of search has been generative AI and particularly the rise of ChatGPT … I think in some ways, that competition that’s been spurred by ChatGPT undercuts the DOJ’s case a little bit because ChatGPT didn’t have any default search deals, and yet it’s giving Google a run for its money.”
—”That competition leads to more innovation for consumers. I don’t think there’s any absence of that at all,” Kovacevich added.
–As pointed out by NetChoice, consumers seek out Google even when it is not a default, just as many Windows users currently do. “If being #1 always led to more users, then Bing would be at the top as it is the default search on the default web browser of every Windows computer. But many users WANT Google and seek it out, regardless of whether it is the ‘default’ browser in a tech product or not. Google’s success shows that if you build the best product, consumers will come (competition).“